It is clear that Facebook is becoming increasingly popular with midwives as a way of networking, communicating and sharing information. But midwives have also been getting into trouble on Facebook. There are concerns in some professional quarters about a perceived increase in conversations about clients, patients and colleagues that breach legal and professional confidentiality requirements.
So how can midwives be 'professional' in Facebook but still have fun? Here are a few thoughts, comments and tips.
1. Think carefully about how you want to use your Facebook account
Do you want it to be a professional page where you clearly identify yourself as a midwife, maybe to attract or communicate with clients? Or, do you just want to hang out with friends and family? Even if you are not using your account in a professional capacity, be mindful all the time what you are doing...who you are linking to...who you are becoming friends with...what pages and groups you link to.
2. Pay attention to your privacy settings
Remember that the default privacy settings for Facebook are now open, so you may wish to re-visit your settings and restrict access to the people you choose to be friends with. But remember, even with the most restricted access your 'friends' can still take screen shots of what you have said or done.
3. Pay attention to what you say or do
You cannot beat this advice...every time you post a comment, or upload a video or photo, imagine that your midwifery lecturer, manager or a patient has seen it...have a think about what would they think or say.
4. Six degrees of separation
The world is a very small place and even smaller in Facebook. So your comment may very quickly wing its way beyond your immediate circle of friends to someone you would rather not hear about it.
5. Remember that you can be tagged by others
This point is very similar to the previous one. You have no control over what others upload onto Facebook. So that photo of you doing the 'funky chicken' dance at your birthday party may end up on Facebook and you are not even aware of it.
6. Responding to criticism
Never get into a slanging match with clients about your midwifery actions or performance, even if you feel you are being slandered. In my opinion, you are better off completely ignoring negative comments. However, if you feel you are being unfairly treated and are in danger of having your professional reputation endangered, seek advice from your professional organization - it will be able to advise you about how to proceed.
7. NEVER talk about clients, patients or colleagues on Facebook without their express permission.
This includes up loading photos or videos.
8. Think about who you accept as your 'friend'
It's worth considering whether you should accept friendship with clients or patients - are there professional boundaries that you are crossing? Do you really want them to know the ins and outs of your private life? How do you feel about the merging of your private and professional lives?
9. Giving out professional midwifery information and advice
Have a think about the possible legal ramifications of giving midwifery advice and information to pregnant women - is it appropriate to be giving that information online, or would you be better to have a face-to-face consultation?
10. If in doubt, don't do it
If you are not sure about the comment you are about to make or photo you are about to upload, just don't do it to be on the safe side. Be sure you know what your professional and legal obligations are so you know you are not breaching any rules or regulations set down by law, professional body or employer by your actions on Facebook.
11. Concerns about Facebook
Be aware that there are widespread concerns about Facebook. There are a number of campaigns to encourage people to leave Facebook because of the owner's attitude to privacy and personal information, as well as the difficulty in deleting an account. Ask yourself if and why you want a Facebook account, and think about alternative options for networking. (Here are instructions for deleting your Facebook account).
Having said all that, I do believe Facebook is a great place for connecting and informing midwives, and I actively encourage midwives to engage with Facebook and other social media. So don't be put off using Facebook......give someone a poke...join a mafia war but follow that immortal advice from Hill Street Blues...
..."Let's be careful out there"...
What tips or comments would you make about midwives or any other health professional using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc?
12 Ways to Use Facebook Professionally. Judi Sohn. http://webworkerdaily.com/2007/07/24/12-ways-to-use-facebook-professionally
Managing Facebook as a Mental Professional. Keely Kolmes. http://drkkolmes.com/2009/06/08/managing-facebook-as-a-mental-health-professional
The Facebook Guidebook. Mashable. http://mashable.com/guidebook/facebook
Should you 'friend' your doctor on Facebook? Elizabeth Cohen. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/03/friending.your.doctor/index.html
How to use social networking sites safely. Jo Carlowe. http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-times-this-weeks-issue/how-to-use-social-networking-sites-safely/1981799.article
Image: 'Be careful!' Samout3